Football Fumbles

It’s fall. Pumpkins and cider. Foliage and sweaters. And football.

While the NFL struggles with its own public relations nightmares— accusations of child abuse and domestic violence, here in New Jersey incidents involving the sport are grabbing headlines.

In Sayreville, the school board cancelled the high school football season after reports of hazing by senior players against freshmen. The details are starting to emerge, including sodomy, that occurred on a daily basis.

The superintendent shared that his own son had been a victim of bullying, and given the criminal nature of the allegations, bravely cancelled the entire season. The community is outraged, claiming how football is in its blood. Little attention is given to the victims, who I imagine are afraid that by coming forward, they’ll become victims once again. The bystanders—who witnessed the crimes and others who knew about them—have remained silent.

In Lakewood, four football teammates were arrested for alleged involvement in a series of armed robberies.

In my town, Summit, last month, a silly tradition – blocking an open doorknob between adjoining locker rooms with a banana intended to prevent opposing teams from overhearing or peering in – was interpreted as a racial taunt by an opposing team comprised of mostly African American players.

Despite claims that this wasn’t the intent, the incident is being investigated by the New Jersey State Interscholastic Athletic Association (NJSIAA) and the school has repaired the broken doorknob.

Looking at what’s going on at the national level, it’s not hard to imagine that some of this behavior began early. Bullying is repugnant. Victims aren’t the ones to blame; they need to be protected so they’re comfortable naming names. The players involved in these incidents and fellow team members need to reflect on the behavior and find productive ways to use their time.  Let’s hope they learn about bullying and work to prevent it.




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17 Responses to Football Fumbles

  1. Knowing that things like this happen breaks my heart. The decision to cancel the football season is a good one. People need to know that the crimes committed are serious and those upset about the canceled season need to give their heads a shake. You can’t just gloss over things like this.
    Diana xo


    • Thanks, Diana. I hope more people see it that way. It’s really outrageous how the community has responded in Sayreville. I feel sorry for the kids and parents who are victims. The culture of this sport goes deep– and is damaging lives.


  2. Differentiating between a prank and a crime should be easy, for the adults. This is sickening, and unfortunately it took the super’s son to make change happen.


  3. I worry about the superintendent’s family and home.


  4. susanissima says:

    We really do need to rethink the violent outcomes of football. Bullying, injuries, deaths, racism, sexism…the list is long. Steve Almond, a longtime football junkie, has recently come out with Against Football, a book length manifesto drawing attention to the harmful nature of the sport. It’s a marvelous read and a real eyeopener, Lisa. Thanks for the post.


  5. Drjcwash says:

    Thanks Lisa. I grew up in Birmingham and went to a school that had a great football tradition. Our principal was among those on the wall-of-fame. His son was on the team and a member of our graduating class. As a prank, some of the white male students wore there hair in what we call in the South “plaits”. Some of us black kids just ignored them. They, however went a bit too far. Well, this lead to a fight. The principal was furious. We were on our way to a winning season as an integrated high school. Parents were upset but they supported the principal and we all learned a lesson. Not that racist comments stopped but we were put on notice by everyone to behave and be decent human beings.
    The people involved in these incidents really do not understand what is decent behavior and what is criminal.


  6. Maybe they have football in their veins, but I don’t. Since I didn’t go to a school with a football team that game was never one that I learned about. I think it is brutally aggressive, and I would be delighted if it all disappeared.


    • Some colleges have eliminated it- Swarthmore– mostly as ways to cut expenses– any reason seems a good one. There are other sports kids can do that are less harmful to them both physically and behaviorally.


  7. It’s also important that people like you open up the conversation so that everyone gets engaged in shifting not only perceptions, but also practices and beliefs and ways of regarding the sport that undermine human dignity.

    Like Ronnie, I’m not up on my football culture and am shocked at the depravity you describe. So very sad.

    Thanks for speaking up Lisa and for supporting those who do.


    • I’m quite shocked really at the negative response to the superintendent. He didn’t make this decision on a whim– I’m sure there’s much more that hasn’t been told. Not that I need any more details, I just wish the “adults” would behave like adults.

      Liked by 1 person

  8. I think the superintendent is incredibly courageous to cancel the season. In Ohio, high school football is king (to a fault), and I am afraid some of these things may happen in my community (and many others) also. Where I teach, we have bi-monthly bullying talks with students in grades 6-12. Sadly, many students are numb to these sessions, and treat them as a joke. The mentality that it is OK to make fun, and even harm, others for laughs is horrific. Sigh. 😦


    • Very sad. I too grew up in a football mad town, back in the 60’s and 70’s– probably a lot when on that no one ever discussed. As far as teaching bullying– as a teacher, I always felt the best way to teach values was through literature– not through “sessions about x, y, z, issue”– Lord of the Flies, for example. Of course, every school goes through its “flavor of the month” issue it has to teach– and then spends a fortune on curriculum and prof. development. Crazy!


  9. Probably been going on forever. Doesn’t sound racial, just bullying. The football stars shoud not be considered. Too much admiration and attention


  10. hugmamma says:

    Bullying is something adults indulge in on a regular basis, thereby setting an example for youngsters whether or not it’s intentional. I think we have to make a conscious effort to check ourselves as we go about our business of living, and apologize when we slip up. We’re human and youngsters observing our behavior will get that we’re at least trying to do better. They will then have a modus operandi…better than the one they see reflected in their personal lives as well as in the media. Great share, Lisa…as always. hugs…


    • Yes, sadly this isn’t new– and we can only wonder what has been covered up over the decades in football and elsewhere. I admire the brave families and the superintendent for taking a stand and bringing attention to this issue– perhaps now more vigilance will be in place and it will stop.


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